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January 10, 2008
Museveni fooled us

FDC Vice President and Kyadondo East Member of Parliament, SAM KALEGA NJUBA, went to exile in Kenya when the National Resistance Army (NRA) led by Yoweri Museveni launched a guerilla campaign with an attack on Kabamba Military Training School in 1981.

Njuba was then Secretary for Legal Affairs in the defunct Uganda Patriotic Movement (UPM), which was led by President Museveni.
In My Life in Exile this week, Njuba tells MICHAEL MUBANGIZI why he shunned a fellow Muganda, Dr. Andrew Kayiira who was heading another guerilla Movement, Uganda Freedom Movement (UFM), and instead backed Yoweri Museveni, who hails from Ankole. Njuba also recalls how they were promised money for the struggle and instead received a box full of stones.

I think there are two types of exiles; economic exile for those people who think that there are greener pastures in Europe, America, Japan…and political exile where there is no happiness because you are forced to leave your country.

Mine was political exile. I had the capacity to work as an advocate and earn a living. But I spent close to four years in Nairobi without work because Ugandans weren’t allowed to practice law in Kenya.

I left my wife, children behind and lived as a pauper all those years in Nairobi. As I told you in ‘My Prison Life’ series in The Weekly Observer, I had been arrested and detained in Luzira Prison in September 1979. I was again arrested at the City Square (now Constitution Square) under the interim administration of the late Paulo Muwanga in1980.

When I left prison, I joined Uganda Patriotic Movement (UPM). I stood as a candidate for Mpigi East, as it was known then, in the 1980 general elections. We (UPM members) had said before the elections that we would fight if the polls were rigged.

House attacked
After the elections were rigged, we had to rethink our position.
UPM members, including people like Museveni, Ruhakana Rugunda, Matia Kasaijja, Eriya Kategaya and Amama Mbabazi vowed to fight and we were determined to look for leadership.

I was Secretary for Legal Affairs in UPM, although Kirunda Kivejinja doesn’t recognise it in his book (Uganda: The crisis of confidence).
After the attack on Kabamba [on February 6, 1981], my house was attacked.
I was close to Museveni, so when he went to the bush, it was natural that I had to be arrested.

The party did not start the war as such, but those who were fed up and disagreed with the results went to the bush. Paulo Muwanga’s government sent a battalion of soldiers to Kawuku (Entebbe Road) where I was staying. They missed my house and attacked my neighbour’s. They started shooting to blow up my house. All my people scattered and everything was in a mess.

My wife wasn’t there during the attack but my mother was there; and that was the last time I saw her. She died when I was away.
I was having lunch in town when somebody told me that my house had been attacked. Their motive was to suppress the opposition. As I have said, the party (UPM) did not go to the bush. It was individuals like Museveni who went and attacked Kabamba without our knowledge. At least me and my wife (Gertrude Njuba) weren’t informed.

Even people like Bidandi Ssali who was our Secretary General disagreed with the approach and did not go to the bush. As I moved from town, I noticed that the late Wycliffe Kazoora’s (former Rushenyi County MP) house in Makindye had also been burnt.

I think some other houses in Naguru and Luzira were also attacked.
After the Kabamba attack, I stayed in various places, like in Nangabo. I even stayed in my mother’s house. Then somebody advised that I would be arrested if I remained there.

Museveni advises
So I kept moving from house to house, place to place. I later went to see Museveni in the bush, at Matugga, and I told him about my plight.
He told me to go to Nairobi and stay away for about six months because I was going to be arrested.

There were no preparations for the flight because as they say in Luganda, akukogoba ya kuwa ekkubo (he who chases you, shows you the direction).
I took a taxi to Jinja where I met my friend Moses Kintu (late former NRM minister). I stayed with a friend who was close to government and worked with Nile Breweries for one night before taking off. We drove around the road blocks to Busia where we took a boat to Nairobi.

I couldn’t have gone with my family. My wife continued with the struggle in Kampala until she went to the bush. Faced with a problem, you have to first save yourself. Besides, nobody was hunting my children, so I had to secure myself first. My kids were young and all of them were in boarding schools.

When Amin arrested people, he would come for the individual, kill or kidnap him, but when the ‘liberators’ (UNLF/TPDF) came; they were blowing up people’s houses!

Museveni, Muwanga were blowing up houses and that is what I basically said to Museveni in June 1979 at a press conference. They were blowing houses using guns when children were there. I said in 1979 that these people were going to be worse than Amin.

Active in Nairobi
In Nairobi, I met my friend Joseph Katende with whom I stayed for a few days. I also met Amama Mbabazi (now Minister for Security), Ruhakana Rugunda (now Minister of Internal Affairs) who had already settled there. They were personal friends, I knew them very well and they were happy to receive me. We joined hands and started working on the struggle.

It wasn’t like going to office. It was a campaign involving approaching people, Ugandans who were there for assistance, and talking to them about the correct line in the struggle. We would talk to intelligence fellows because we were hunted daily. So we had to make friendship with them so that they advise us when the going got tough.

We also had to look for money, clothes, and arms but I can’t tell you who was doing what. We would at times move to Mombasa; one time we went to Libya with Museveni and Mathew Rukikaire. Rukikaire was the chairman of the External Committee and I was secretary.

Shunning Kayiira
The struggle wasn’t political, it was military but we did not just get guns. We tried all options. Of course it was obvious DP had won the election, not we (in UPM). We in UPM did not go into that election for a win. We knew we were young and people were telling us, “you have brilliant ideas, but you are young.”

Some of us knew that DP and Baganda did not have the capacity [to lead] compared to Museveni who had been in the struggle. He also had the experience and many contacts. But we were fighting to restore democracy, not necessarily to take power. You see we had lost eight years in the Amin liberation war and some of us were not prepared to waste more years.
Some people expected that as a Muganda I had to work with Kayiira even when Museveni was good.

Kayiira had many weaknesses, but I do not want to talk about him because he is dead. However, he was determined to liberate this country. Kayiira was already in Nairobi by the time we started the struggle. He went to Nairobi when Lule was overthrown.

I remember going with my wife to link up with them and see what they were doing. I realised that they were not taking us anywhere. My wife stayed for a while, but later she joined the bush. My brother and sister kept some of my children, but the youngest went to a certain bishop in Mityana. I used to raise some little money, which I would send home to help.

Eventually I took three of them out; they would come and see me in Nairobi and the go back.

It wasn’t easy sending money for children and the struggle because people who did the task did not want to be exposed; and there were no mobile phones. So there were a few disappointments. I know of people who gave us a box allegedly full of money but when we reached where we were supposed to open it from, there were stones!

By the time I went into exile, I was chairman of the Uganda Law Society but I couldn’t be employed in Nairobi except as a law clerk which I refused. That was a [lowly] job. I had been a lecturer at Makerere University, my counterparts in Kenya were senior lecturers in Nairobi!
Some people in Nairobi who had been my classmates were in the High Court and for me because I wanted to live, I should work as a law clerk! I think it was below my status.

But I tried many things in business. I could import some things to Kenya wherever I went abroad. Eventually I had to sell my house here to raise money for the struggle. We also had to raise money to bribe spies.
We had to take people to Libya for training and other countries that I won’t name. There were many people in the struggle but many are still in the army, I won’t name them. I am telling you Libya because Libya has been in the news, but people like Julius Nyerere also helped us. So there were some dealings with Tanzania and some other countries.

Besigye joins
Many people who came to Nairobi wanted to go and join those in the bush.
At that time Kizza Besigye was in Nairobi. He had run away from Uganda after being imprisoned. An arrangement was made for him to travel back and join the bush.

And there were many people in that category- people who had run away but did not know how to go to the bush. It was easier for them to go to Nairobi and then to the bush than going to Luwero directly. Many people were willing to join but they did not know how to go about it. You had to get the right contact because not all that glitters is gold.

Some people came to you and talked to you well when their agenda was different. Others saw you properly dressed and thought you had a lot of money, so they would come to swindle or spy on you. So you don’t take all they tell you as Gospel truth.

About cohesion, I think our group was united. There was some discrimination based on ethnicity, colour but we could ignore it. Some people would come to me and ask, “Why do you work with Museveni and not Kayiira?” But me I am above those as I have already told you.

Anyway, I later went to Papua New Guinea where I was lecturing in a university. I was there with people like James Wapakhabulo, Dr. Samson Kisekka and Prof. Gilbert Bukenya.

Tito takes over
News of the takeover by Gen. Tito Okello Lutwa found me in Papua New Guinea. I was teaching when students came to my room and said, “Teacher, Idi Amin has gone back to Uganda.”

I said that couldn’t be because I was following events. Eventually I learnt that Gen. Tito Okello had taken over. Later I went to Nairobi to check what was happening. That is when Lutwa’s government was holding peace talks with the NRA.

In fact, it was me who recommended that the late Abu Mayanja be put on the negotiating table. Mayanja was a good bargainer and had experience. He was a lawyer, we had worked with him in Nairobi; he was our supporter. He was one of those who negotiated for independence (in 1962).

From the peace talks I went back to Papua New Guinea to terminate my contract; let my students do their exams and resign before coming back.
I am not like a mad person who just runs away.

I had to explain to them [university] that I wanted to return home.
I could see the writing on the wall. He (Tito Okello) was illiterate; I think people like Olara Otunnu were helping him. If it was Otunnu who had taken over, he would have done better.

I remember in one of his speeches, Tito Okello said, “Exile is bad, when you go to exile and you are a young man, you grow old; if you go to exile and you are an old man, you grow mad.”

Secondly, their camp was divided. It was an internal coup within Obote’s army. They had taken over Obote’s government which was already split. We knew it would collapse soon.

You see Amin, didn’t have a war to fight in the first place. He had an established united army. He came in a popular manner; people were celebrating initially. But Okello was overthrowing his master (Obote). The army was divided between him (Okello) and Obote.

When Tito Okello was finally ousted, I heard the news on BBC; but we were also in contact with people here.

Oyite Ojok dies
[Asked if the takeover by the Okellos robbed NRM of victory]- We knew it was the next step to our victory. We knew Okello wouldn’t last.
It was like the death of former army Chief of Staff, Maj. Gen. Oyite Ojok. Of course nobody wants someone to die but his death increased the speed of our struggle. Ojok was the planner of our rivals in the UNLF, so his death created a gap. Anything that hits your enemy is unfortunately welcome. It is a contradictory term.

[Asked about allegations that NRA soldiers shot the plane in which Oyite Ojok died]- Yes and no. Of course because he was planning to attack us, you can say it was NRA. Others say it was an inside job. But according to my information it was not us.

Returning home
I came after the January 1986 liberation war.
Dr. Sam Kisekka organised some party officials and we came on the same plane. By then Museveni had announced that I was a Minister of State for Constitutional Affairs.

We came with Kisekka who had also been made Prime Minister; a woman called Black and Besweri Mulondo, and about eight other people.
Kisekka was very much in the struggle, very hard working and time conscious. He would tell you to meet at 9:00 o’clock and he would be on the door at that time. He used to organise meetings, coordinate us from Nairobi and Kampala.

There was a time I remained with him and Mathew Rukikaire in Nairobi. The rest, like Mbabazi and Rugunda had gone to Sweden. Some of us were prepared to die, so if you say that it was cowards who went to exile; you are entitled to your view. We went there to fight dictatorship. We couldn’t all hold guns.

We needed to have people on the battlefield and others to solicit money to buy drugs, food and do political work. Some of our people went out to persuade our economic refugees. These would contribute; they used to give us money. But there are people who stayed in Kampala aiding the war.

In fact, there are many people who helped the struggle but will never be mentioned because they don’t want. Some are religious men, like bishops, business people and ordinary citizens. There are real historicals whose names don’t appear anywhere.

Home is best
There is nothing good about exile. You leave your country, home, children and work to become a dependant. Even when I got a job later in exile, still home was best.

You lose everything at home - my ranch, house were all destroyed. When we came back, we had to start like somebody graduating from university because we weren’t given anything for resettlement.

My mother also died when I was in exile. My father died when I was two years, so she made me who I am. I would have loved to be by her side when she was sick, and even bury her.

But I only got information that she had died. So I don’t see anything good about exile and I have always discouraged my friends who want to go and live in America, Britain… The weather out there is of course also bad.

I learnt that integrity, commitment and honesty must be maintained if we are to establish democracy, and we must be committed to that. So you must have the will to persist in the struggle.

So there are moments when we would say, ‘may be I should give up’ and some people went ahead and left the struggle. But there is nothing that comes easy.

The problem we have today is that people went into these things with a hidden agenda that they did not tell us. Today I believe that in going to the bush, President Museveni did not want democracy [restored] in this country. All he wanted was to get power and concentrate power in his hands.

I was with him in the struggle and we parted nine years after he had taken over power. What I saw then and what I have been seeing is that he fooled us. He wanted power not democracy. Working with him I learnt that he never wanted anything to be done without his knowledge.
He amended the Constitution to achieve that.

He wanted to be an emperor; he wanted to have power. He is struggling to stay president. However, I don’t regret having participated in the struggle. I don’t regret having liberated this country. My only regret is that we entrusted the struggle in people that did not want it.



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